28 Chapter 28

Much had changed in the city of Omashu since my last visit. Firstly, there were significantly fewer people on the streets. Secondly, many houses now bore red colors, with Fire Nation flags hanging everywhere...

We were greeted quite modestly by a single dark-haired girl with two buns on either side of her head and two long strands falling from her head.

The soldiers carrying Princess Azula in her palanquin set it down on the ground, and the princess immediately stepped out and approached the girl greeting us.

With an utterly unchanged expression, the girl bowed and then said:

"I hope you've come to kill me."

These words, spoken with complete indifference and a serious face, almost triggered a reflex in me, and I was indeed ready to oblige. Normally, I don't kill on request, but if asked, especially by someone from the Fire Nation, and about themselves - it seemed rude not to help! However, I stopped myself just before making a move.

The girl... though, what am I saying? She looked no more than fifteen years old! Ty Lee is just fourteen! So, in my mind, I'll refer to our greeter as a girl.

So, the girl smiled at her words, and she, along with Azula, laughed. At that moment, Mai's expression was not depressive but rather joyful and happy at seeing her friend.

The two girls joyfully hugged, and Ty Lee joined in, unable to stay away from the hugging!

"I thought you had left with the circus," said Mai, as I just learned from Azula's greetings, embracing Ty Lee.

"Yes, but Azula's call was louder, so I went with her. By the way, meet Mai, this is Garo, he's also going with us. In the circus, he was my performance partner, and he's a firebender, just like Azula, and even managed to defeat her!" Ty Lee cheerfully exclaimed.

"Is that so?" Mai looked at me, then nodded to herself. "Understood."

"Pleasure to meet you, Mai. Sorry, I don't know any other way to address you, so I'll stick with this for now. If you don't like it, let me know. Ty Lee is right, I'm joining you. However, Azula didn't lose to me. It was more like she just didn't expect that much initiative from me, so it was nothing more than a mishap."

"Understood," Mai said with her indifference returning, then turned and addressed everyone. "Let's go. I'll take you to my father."

Soon we were in the spacious office of the governor. Princess Azula took his place, with Mai, Ty Lee, and I standing by the sides. The first two simply stood and waited, while I stood slightly aside, trying not to be too noticeable, and there, with my eyes closed, I focused on the earth and stones around us.

Being in what could be considered Azula's entourage, I couldn't practice the overt bending of other elements. Only fire. I had already established myself as a firebender, and suddenly showing abilities in other elements might lead them to think I was the Avatar. Right now, I didn't need complications. Besides, in firebending, I could not just practice, but significantly improve. Azula is known as a firebending prodigy. She might lack combat experience, but she compensates with firebending techniques and sharp intellect. Combat experience can be acquired over time. And from her, especially, I could learn a lot. In our training battles, she constantly invents new things or significantly improves on existing techniques. Thus, my training fights with her actually increase her threat level. But the same applies to me. Firebending was perhaps the most challenging element for me. Perhaps it's due to my innate affinity for water, or something else, but the invisible resistance I felt was overcome, and now it's second only to water in terms of development. Earth and air follow, with air being the least developed. I mainly used it as a fire enhancer or in oxygen enrichment techniques with bloodbending.

However, I believe neglecting the other elements and their development would be unwise. And if I can't develop their external forceful applications... who's to stop me from developing subtle and ideally unnoticed techniques?

When I mastered bloodbending, I used it almost exclusively as a means of killing or controlling opponents. Later, I discovered its capabilities in body control but didn't devote much time to it.

But, imprisoned without the ability to practice external applications, I focused entirely on internal control. And after years, this subtle, unnoticed influence allowed me to change my appearance, control almost all processes in my body... in other words, unable to develop in strength, I devoted all my attention to another direction of development.

So why not try to do the same here? Why not attempt the same with earthbending? I may have achieved high results in forceful earthbending, at least by my assessment, but that's it!

I could try to train in creating detailed stone figures, but that's too conspicuous.

So, I came to new conclusions. Bloodbending allows me to sense life in living beings, in their blood. So perhaps, based on other elements, I could attempt some form of sensory ability? Vibrations transmit much better in water and earth, being denser mediums, and air excellently carries smells and sounds. Maybe there's a way to use this?

I started with earth. It's the most accessible element for developing sensory abilities, excluding air, which I barely developed—a matter to be corrected. Somehow! Find a way to discreetly train in this bending, practice it, and not draw attention.

"Hey, Garo, why are you frozen? Did you fall asleep?" Ty Lee's voice pulled me from my thoughts.

"Ah? Oh, sorry. Have you finished the meeting already? I missed everything; can you fill me in on what was discussed?" I asked, noticing that almost everyone had dispersed, and Azula and Mai were walking away, discussing something.

"Sure. Mai's younger brother has been kidnapped, and the governor wants to exchange King Bumi for his son. The four of us: me, Azula, Mai, and you, will go to the exchange. It will take place at the construction site where a statue of the Fire Lord is being built."

"Understood. Shall we take a walk around the city? I didn't get to explore much last time; maybe we'll find something interesting."

"Let's do it!"

It was still daytime, so we walked the streets of Omashu... or rather, as Ty Lee told me, thanks to Azula, this city is now called New Ozai, in honor of her father.

Almost no residents remained in the city. As it turned out, they all left the city just a day before our arrival. However, those who stayed were mostly food and goods shop owners. They hadn't noticed much change. Fire Nation soldiers didn't bother them much - goods like theirs are needed by everyone, so they felt relatively safe.

We stocked up at some of these shops and happily ate as we walked the streets.


 hadn't tried the city's culinary works last time, only tasting a sweet crystal. Now, I made up for it, devouring sweets and baked goods with Ty Lee from the stalls.

When the sky began to color with sunset hues, we headed back and dispersed to our rooms.

The night was, as usual, sleepless for me. Instead, I sat on the floor meditating, but instead of focusing on elements and energy, I tried to concentrate on the earth as a whole entity, trying to filter out all stimuli except for earth vibrations.

In some ways, the earth is always vibrating, but human senses aren't developed enough to feel it.

I only felt the vibrations towards morning. It felt like a constant hum that I sensed with my entire body. Not solely on my own. The sensations were amplified and primarily perceived through earthbending, and this information was then projected into my mind.

For ten minutes, I concentrated, trying to discern anything in the earth's hum, but without success, I ended the session, preparing for the exchange happening today.

Enjoy reading, and don't forget: for every 200 Power Stones you donate, I'll post an additional chapter.

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